Managers and workers disagree completely about what makes a good office culture

According to a new employee engagement survey from Kronos.

Kronos's survey showed that HR professionals, managers, and employees have very different opinions about workplace culture.
Kronos's survey showed that HR professionals, managers, and employees have very different opinions about workplace culture. –Boston Globe Joanne Rathe

What does it take to create a great workplace culture? If you ask managers, employees, and human resource professionals, you’re bound to get very different answers, according to a new employee engagement survey by Kronos, a workforce management cloud software company based in Chelmsford.

In an online questionnaire, Kronos asked over 1,800 workers separated into three groups — HR professionals, people managers, and full-time employees — questions about various aspects of workplace culture and employee engagement, such as, “Who defines workplace culture?” and, “What culture attributes matter most to employees?”

Kronos found the three groups disagreed on almost everything.

When asked who at their organization had the biggest impact on defining workplace culture, HR professionals, managers, and employees each felt their own group was most important. A third of HR professionals put themselves on top, but only 3 percent of regular employees agreed.


The second most common response from employees asked about who defines their workplace’s culture was no one.

And when asked what culture attributes matter most to employees, HR professionals and managers guessed wrong, saying they thought employees cared most about “managers and executives leading by example.”

Meanwhile, employees cited “pay” as their top concern, followed by “coworkers who respect and support one another” and “work-life balance.”

Finally, when asked what factors “kill” a positive workplace culture, the three parties differed once more.

Most HR professionals and managers said that “a high-stress environment” and “company growth” were the two elements with the biggest negative impact on workplace culture, but employees said “not having enough staff to support goals,” “poor employee/manager relationships,” and “unhappy/disengaged workers” were the biggest culture buzzkills.

Kronos was pretty shocked by the results.

“It is surprising, and frankly alarming, to see such a wide gap between how employees view and experience workplace culture versus their managers and HR professionals,” said Joyce Maroney, director of  The Workforce Institute at Kronos, in a statement. “There is very little common ground concerning who defines the culture, what is important to creating a winning culture, and what can ruin it.”


Maroney said she hoped the survey would give insight to HR professionals and managers about how their employees really feel about workplace culture and how they can change their thinking and actions to improve the workplace in meaningful ways.

For example, when it comes to eliminating killers of positive workplace culture, HR and managers can use the findings to reduce the perceived stress of their work environment by focusing on hiring the right people, appropriately staffing, and ensuring managers have the proper training to help their staff thrive, Kronos said.

It’s worth noting that over 40 percent of millennial employees thought that employees were the drivers of company culture, compared to 29 percent of employees overall, which is an indication of an evolving view of workplace culture where younger employees feel they have more power.

Dan Schawbel, author of “Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success,” found this statistic to be the most telling.

“This is important,” Schawbel said in a statement. “Each generation changes the workplace as they rise up the ranks and millennials are making it clear that they believe the power to impact workplace culture lies predominantly with the people who do the work. HR professionals and people managers should take note of this, look for ways to involve employees in the development of workplace culture, and be on the lookout for those disengaged workers who may be poisoning the well – they wield more power than you may think.”

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